Contemporary Art, the Contemporary and Late Capitalism | C.J. W.-L. Wee

C.J. W.-L. Wee


Jodi Dean’s The Communist Horizon is both a jeremiad and an exhortation: fundamentally, an anti-capitalist jeremiad in favour of ‘the unrealized potentials of … collective struggle’ (2012: 17); and an exhortation to leave behind what she describes as a postmodern pluralist approach’ (3) to politics, an approach including ‘general inclusion, momentary calls for broad awareness, and lifestyle changes [as political strategies]’ (12). For politics, she prefers, instead, a move ‘toward militant opposition, tight organizational forms (party, council, working group, cell), and the sovereignty of the people over the economy’ (12).

Dean champions the reclamation of communism as the form of ‘revolutionary universal egalitarianism’ (19) for a world in which proletarianisation calls to mind less a social class—a key Marxist component of course—but now more names ‘a process of exploitation, dispossession, and immiseration that produces the very rich as the privileged class that lives off the rest of us’ (18).
The working class as the historical agent that will facilitate the change of capitalism into communism is dispensed with. In place, she offers the idea of the people as the rest of us: it is ‘an alternative to some of the other names for the subject of communism—proletariat, multitude, part-of-no-part’ (18–19). For Dean, the party and even the state are not dated vehicles for contemporary politics, as ‘a partisan sense of collectivity’ needs to be fostered, and some sort of organisation—the party—is required to help cultivate the desire for collectivity (12). The party, though, is not quite the instrument by which History’s iron laws are carried out, but becomes the experimental organisational form through which politics can truly be politics. What are we to make of Dean’s argument?

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